Our Opinion: When will election problems cease?

March 08, 2002

The ballots have been cast, but we fear controversy over Tuesday's primary election is just getting started.

It will be at least a week — if not more — before the final votes are tallied, but already we are receiving phone calls and letters voicing concern about improprieties.

That is not new. It seems in almost every recent election in Imperial County there are rumors of improprieties (although let us stress the word "rumors").

Still, in the days leading up to the election, we started to receive reports that people were receiving absentee ballots late — as late as Saturday. On election day ballots were delayed in being brought in to election headquarters to be counted. Ballot boxes from Brawley and Calexico were several hours late, prompting rumors among those awaiting the results at election central. Unofficial tallies for the election weren't released until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and those figures were released with still more than 1,600 votes to be counted.


The Elections Department was still looking for extra help just prior to Tuesday's election. We wonder how such help could receive the necessary training to precinct staffs in time for the election. We have been told there was at least one local poll where none of the workers spoke English.

Problems in elections have occurred before, and while such things should be getting better, they are not. And while there may be no real improprieties by voting officers, we can see how there would be the appearance of such. That leads some to question the results, even those who lost by wide margins.

More needs to be done to make sure elections in Imperial County are as trouble-free as possible.

The issue of absentee ballots should have been dealt with so people were getting their ballots in plenty of time to make their votes count. The county should have launched a campaign to educate the public on how redistricting was going to change the way some people vote. Too many people were taken by surprise by the changes.

Finding and training qualified workers to man the polling sites is not a light issue. They need to know what they are doing and have confidence that what they are doing is right and legal.

We know it cannot be easy to handle the task of staging an election. We credit those who give their time to help in the electoral process. Nevertheless, it is the role of the Elections Department to administer a just and trouble-free election.

Those who run that department need to address some of these key issues. We cannot continue to have elections plagued by problems. If we do, we wonder if people will simply decide not to vote and not to run. If all local elections appear to be plagued by problems, people are bound to lose faith in the results.

Once the final votes have been tallied and those elected begin their public service, the Elections Department must take a close look at itself to determine what it is doing right and wrong. And if those in the department can see ways to make it better, people from outside the office need to bring their perspective.

It is only our electoral system at stake.

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